By Aroonim Bhuyan
Abu Dhabi, Nov 5 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh has turned out to be the biggest source of illegal migration from India to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with the maximum applicants for the Gulf nation’s recent amnesty scheme for illegal workers coming from people of this south Indian state.
“Going by the trend of number of applicants for the recent amnesty scheme launched by the UAE government, we have found out that Andhra Pradesh, surprisingly, has turned out to be the biggest source of illegal migrants from India to this country,” India’s Ambassador to the UAE Talmiz Ahmad told IANS here.
In June this year, the UAE cabinet had launched an amnesty scheme for foreigners present illegally in the country, giving them three months to regularise their status according to the law or leave the country without penalty.
The immigration authorities here later gave a grace period of two months for the amnesty-seekers, the deadline for which expired Nov 2.
“Around 70,000 Indians took advantage of this scheme,” Ahmad said, adding that, in all, 300,000 workers of different nationalities applied for this scheme.
There are around 1.5 million Indian workers in this Gulf nation, many of them working as contract workers in the booming construction industry.
This is the third such scheme launched by the UAE government in the last decade to curb illegal immigration.
“The first such scheme was launched in 1998. Around 40,000 Indians had left this country then. In the second, launched in 2003, 28,000 Indians took advantage of the scheme,” the ambassador said.
Of the 300,000 who applied for the scheme this year, around 50,000 managed to regularize their jobs.
Asked for the reason behind this sudden spurt in illegal migration from Andhra Pradesh to UAE, Ahmed said: “We believe the drought and the law and the order situation in that state compelled many people there to come here in search of employment. Most of them come on visit visas which do not allow them to take up legal employment.”
Most of the illegal migrants from Andhra Pradesh have turned out to be from the northern Telangana region, especially from the cities of Hyderabad, Karimnagar and Nizamabad.
“Interestingly,” the ambassador added, “applicants for the amnesty scheme from Kerala have been relatively fewer in number this time. I guess they have realized the fallouts of illegal migration.”
Explaining the reason behind this large-scale illegal migration from India to the UAE, the ambassador said: “The UAE – particularly the three emirates of Sharjah, Ajman and Fujairah – has been very liberal in granting visit visas. Many companies in those three emirates seek visit visas saying they were inviting business partners.
“These visas are then sold by unscrupulous agents in India to unsuspecting workers for up to over Rs.150,000 ($3,810).”
Ahmed said there were three types of illegal migrants in this Gulf nation.
“First, there are those who have valid visas but continue to stay in the country even after the expiry of their visas without seeking renewal. Then there are those who come to work on a legal visa but then leave their original sponsor to work for somebody else without transferring the visa. The third category of such illegal migrants are those who enter the UAE illegally through its land and sea borders from neighbouring countries.”
The ambassador said that, to curb this menace of illegal migration, India’s Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs would be launching a major six-month campaign from the middle of November to make people aware of the fallouts of illegal migration.
“I will also be going to India and visit Calicut, Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai and Hyderabad and meet the authorities concerned there,” he said.
“This apart, we are also looking into the issue of greater transparency in contracts. We need to have a single document as a contract between the employer and the employee, with one copy each for the employee, the employer, the UAE authorities and the Indian embassy.”
Another step in this direction, he said, was to set up a grievance redressal cell.
“This will be a joint effort between the Indian and UAE authorities and will be aimed at addressing complaints by workers who have genuine grievances,” the ambassador said.